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Activity 4: Inwood Hill Park Ecological Study_Organisms


Activity Description

This activity involves a field trip to Inwood Hill Park where students break into teams and analyze flora and fauna in their plots using various methods of identification. They then spend the next week in class analyzing their findings.

Estimated Time of Activity

Five 45 minute classes plus a 2-3 hour field trip

Activity Objectives

Students will be able do the following as a result of the activity:

  1. Identify the signatures mammals leave in an ecosystem in order to identify them
  2. Know how to employ sweep nets, batting techniques, pit fall traps, and soil litter collection in order to collect insects
  3. Know the most common orders of insects 
  4. Able to identify physical specimens of collected insects to at least the order level
  5. Use dichotomous keys to identify insects and trees
  6. Know the most common trees in the NorthEast
  7. Know how to identify the most common trees in Inwood Hill Park
  8. Use powerpoint to make a short presentation of their findings to the class


Activity Instructions

  1. The field trip should come first, and before student teams break up to study and identify plants and animals, the teacher needs to demonstrate the proper way to perform each test.  The teacher needs to show students how to catch insects in bug nets and trap them using a sweeping technique.  The teacher also needs to show them the batting method and how to collect soil leaf litter.  The teacher also needs to show students how to use track tubes and dichotomous keys to identify trees within their plots.
  2. Students will then go into the field and mark out their plots.  They will all take notes in their field notebooks and the will begin setting up the methods to catalogue flora and fauna.
  3. Students will dig small holes to bury their pitfall traps and will break into mini teams.  Some students should focus on collecting insects while other should focus on identifying trees.
  4. The first day after the field trip, student teams will empty their bags and organize their insect and plant samples.  The teacher should lead a short discussion about the first day (what went well, what went poorly, what was the importance, etc)
  5. On the second day, students begin analyzing their results.  This is a good time to introduce Microsoft excel so students can store the information they collected.  They should spread and mount insects and identify them down to the order level.  They should also identify the trees that were within their plots.
  6. On the third day, students should compile all their data in one shared spreadsheet, and then start working on a short powerpoint presentation discussing their results
  7. On the fourth day, students should continue working on their presentation
  8. On the Fifth, groups should present what they found and discuss any larger results.  For example, we have students choose plots in different disturbed areas of the park and different ecosystems.  They can then determine if the type of ecosystem determines the biodiversity of insects within their plot.


The teacher should assess students through their team presentations, the completeness of individual field notebooks, and the accuracy of the how they identified their insects/plants.



  • Dichotomous Key - ppt
  • Insect collection and Identification - pdf
  • Organism Data Sheet - doc